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Chinese turn to digital mapping
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-05-05 09:41

It is not merely a map. It is a moving map. It speaks to prompt drivers when to turn left and where to fill up their gas tanks.

Digital navigation maps accessed from vehicles and mobile phones are an indicator of the country's future mobile lifestyle, as more Chinese turn to them for directions.

"Quite a number of automobile producers, both domestic and international, will install our navigating map in their new models," said Sun Yuguo, president of Beijing-based NavInfo Co Ltd, which is the country's top cartographic information provider. Sixteen car brands use NavInfo's map service.

Leading mobile phone manufacturers are also eager to join forces with the mapping giant, propelled by the success of Nokia, which marketed a new mobile personal navigation module late last year.

As small as a disc, or even smaller to fit into mobile phones, the digital map reciprocates with the global positioning system (GPS) to guide people to their inputted destination in a few clicks.

All road information is displayed in a 3D model, accompanied by a voice. For each query, five routes are recommended, including expressway priority and distance priority.

The map also includes lists of nearby gas stations, hotels, supermarkets and restaurants and their telephone numbers.

Less than 1 per cent of cars in China are equipped with the device, said Sun. In Japan, half of the cars in the country navigate digitally.

But, the Chinese market is growing quickly. Beijing plans to plant GPS receivers in all its buses and taxis by 2008, which "implies a big market for the navigating map," said Sun.

By 2015, China will demand 26 million sets of in-car and personal navigation systems, about 28 times more than last year, thanks to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 Shanghai World Expo, a survey released in March by Yano Research Institute found.

Hu Yue, a Shanghai-based Lexus owner, agrees that the future is rosy for in-car navigation, based on personal experience.

"It is useful and handy especially when you head for a strange place," said Hu, who purchased a Lexus with an in-car navigation a month ago.

Although Hu admits that he seldom uses it in Shanghai, the map will definitely "play a big part when I explore other cities," he said.

Between 20 to 30 per cent of Hu's friends have such a system in their cars, he said. "The number will soon go up, I believe," Hu said.

Travel enthusiasts have especially high expectations and believe the system will be extremely useful when they drive through city jungles.

Shi Hui, a Beijing-based white-collar worker, said she would like to have a navigation system to save time by not having to study paper maps and tourist manuals.

There are nine cartographic information providers in China. NavInfo is the oldest, and occupies more than 80 per cent of the in-car navigation map market in China.

The company has the most complete map data that spans more than 300 cities across the country, excluding Taiwan Province and Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions. The data is updated twice a year for big cities, and annually for smaller ones.

By co-operating with telecommunications giant China Unicom, the map is accessible to mobile phone users trying to find destinations.

"They do not need to buy another auxiliary. All they need is a mobile with a GPS receiver and to register for the service," he said.

Source:China Daily 
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